Literature, Politics, and the English Avant-Garde: Nation and Empire, 1901-1918

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Accounts of the 'historical avant-garde' and of 'high modernism' often celebrate the former for its revolutionary aesthetics or denigrate the latter for its 'proto-fascist' politics. In Literature, Politics and the English Avant-Garde, Paul Peppis shows how neither interpretation explains the writings of avant-gardists in early twentieth-century England. Peppis reads texts by writers such as Ford Madox Ford, Wyndham Lewis, Dora Marsden, and Ezra Pound alongside English political discourse between the death of Victoria and the end of the Great War. He traces the impact of nation and empire on the avant-garde, arguing that Vorticism, England's foremost avant-garde movement, used nationalism to advance literature and avant-garde literature to advance empire. Peppis's study demonstrates that these ambitions were enabled by a period conception of nationality as an essence and construct. By recovering these neglected aspects of avant-garde politics, Peppis's book opens important avenues for assessing modernist politics after the war.